Southeastern Minnesotans enrolling in health insurance plans through the state exchange will soon have several options to choose from, rather than the single insurance plan that has been available since the program’s October 1 launch. The state Departments of Health and Commerce announced Wednesday that Medica has been approved to offer seven health insurance packages on MNsure, a move that will multiply options for Rochester-area consumers who had complained about their lack of choice since the open enrollment period began.
The announcement came after a period of negotiation that saw state agencies and area legislators working with insurers to bring new plans onto the market. As of last week, only Blue Cross Blue Shield had been selling insurance in that area, with a lone “silver” level package available (with a $3,000 deductible). Medica has agreed to offer a more expansive list of products in Olmsted and Dodge counties. Seven new plans will be introduced, including two each at the “gold,” silver and “bronze” level, as well as a catastrophic insurance plan.
According to the announcement, MNsure is working to put the new Medica options online as soon as possible. Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman, who last week said his department was negotiating with a second insurance company to add competition to the Rochester market, announced the news in a statement released Wednesday morning.
“Once we identified the opportunity, we worked swiftly to facilitate a solution with Medica on behalf of consumers to provide more choice and access to health coverage,” Rothman said.
Medica had already been offering some packages in parts of both counties, but had excluded certain zip codes. The lack of plans available was thought to be caused by the relatively expensive cost of health care in that region, partly due to higher costs for treatment at the Mayo Clinic.
Sen. Carla Nelson, R-Rochester, had criticized MNsure and the state agencies for not approving other insurers in her area. For her part, Rep. Kim Norton, DFL-Rochester, told Politics in Minnesota she and other Democrats had been meeting privately with companies to encourage them to sell additional products since the exchange launched.
“We know having quality health insurance coverage leads to better health outcomes,” Health Commissioner Ed Ehlinger said as part of Wednesday’s announcement. “Each person and family has different needs, and it’s important to have a range of options to make sure the insurance plan fits their specific needs.”